What is Maritime Arbitration?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2020
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Maritime arbitration is an alternative means of handling conflicts, including shipping disputes, outside of the court system. In general, arbitration serves as a key tool to help various parties come to an agreement without litigating or using the judicial system. In arbitration, the parties to a conflict agree to hire a third party to provide an impartial opinion, which may be the final word on something that has the potential to become a thorny and protracted legal battle.

Different kinds of arbitration apply to different maritime cases. Some kinds of arbitration are binding, which means the parties agree to abide by the finding of the arbiter. In other kinds of arbitration, called “non-binding,” the opinion presented is solely as a reference for further action. Other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) include mediation, where the third party also acts as a resource.

Maritime arbitration can apply to a range of situations. In some cases, disagreements over the shipping and handling of sea-bound freight can generate the need for a panel of arbiters to rule on a maritime issue. There are also many cases where maritime work injury disputes can use arbitration. Specific laws on protections for maritime workers and unions contribute to the need for legal alternatives when conflicts arise between an employer and workers.


Some kinds of maritime arbitration that are focused on employment may relate to the Jones Act, an antique but still active law about general liability for dangers at sea. Maritime arbitration might also take into effect the complicated legal aspects of taking freight through international waters, where the rule of law may be much more abstract than it is on land. Confusions over maritime law have led to a lot of different kinds of conflict between parties with financial incentives around a shipping practice.

When maritime arbitration is approached as an option, the lawyers of each party can give an opinion on whether it is in their client’s best interest to pursue this alternative. Arbitration can be an effective way to make resolution easier. It can also be seen as a less thorough way to resolve a complex issue. As judicial systems are often regarded as overcomplicated and time consuming, arbitration has become popular in many industries, including some of those that focus on the high seas.


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